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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

First Amendment: A Right and a Responsibility

Freedom of Speech. Hmm. A long time ago, we declared ourselves to have the right to express ourselves without fear of reprisal, a monumental improvement over life under the British monarchy, when saying the wrong thing about the King could lead to shackles or worse. There are a few caveats, of course. We can’t shout “Fire” when there is none, or terrorize others by claiming to have planted a bomb, nor threaten to kill. Freedom of Speech does not extend to inciting violence. Well and good.
Farmer's Market, Memphis.

Personal slander and lies, however, are more difficult utterances to police. Although the U.S. is one of the most litigious nations in the world, most of the time we don’t bother to sue others who slander us. Case in point: someone calls me a “dufus.” And although I would beg to differ, there’s no point in making a big deal of it. We tend to count on the ability of reasonable people to recognize that the slanderous person’s statements are without merit. It’s pragmatic.
"A reasonable person would recognize 
that I am not a dufus."

So since we are free to say what we like, where is Honesty in all of this? The First Amendment is the basis for many of our laws. But, Honesty, that takes us into the realm of morality. Laws and Morality. Apples and oranges—not the same but both in the same fruit bowl. The two ought to be able to cohabit the same space without bruising one another. Wouldn’t you think?

We claim to be a nation of morals—Honesty, being one of them, yes? Historically, we pride our American selves on possessing a higher level of morals than many nations of the world. (Especially if we set aside for the moment, our history of slavery, internment camps and forced boarding schools for Native children). We like to see ourselves as beacons of fairness on the world stage. We believe we are the “good guys.”

An unexpected oversize "sign" in the
Upper Peninsula of Michigan

So, does Honesty make up one of the rungs on our ladder of American Morality? Do we believe in it? Right along with Justice and Equality? Is it something we value? The past couple of years have been particularly tough for me in this regard….

“Nobody has greater respect for women than me.” Pres. Trump (Excuse me, but just writing that quote makes me guffaw).

"In another moment, I'm going to split a
gut laughing. Then I'll cry."

“There were good people on both sides of the Charlottesville thing.” Pres. Trump

“The President did not say that. What I can tell you is that the President has the highest regard for (…women.. children…victims of hurricanes… people of color…etc.)” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders Huckabee.

"Who you gonna trust in this town?  A guy with bad hair,
or me, a Border Collie with a nose for Truth."

“Well, that’s not at all what happened…..I know the history of this. I’ve spent a lot of time on this throughout my career.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to John Dickerson, speaking on his decision to block Obama’s choice for SCOTUS, Merrick Garland. McConnell claimed that it was justified to block a nominee when the White House and Congress were of different parties.

“Under my Administration, we have accomplished in two years more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” Pres. Trump’s speech to 100+ world leaders, ambassadors and dignitaries at the UN which prompted audience laughter. Trump later said that he had been “meant to get laughter.”

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Dept of Homeland Security (DHS) Sec. Kjirsten Nielsen. As of June 19, 2018 2,342 children have been separated from their parents.

“Everybody knows that I’ve got what it takes. Because of what’s up here.” (pointing to his head) Pres. Trump in interview. (Clearly this is untrue because I, for one, do NOT know that he has what it takes).

"Seriously?  You want me to believe that?"

“We did an outstanding job in Puerto Rico. There were not 3,000 deaths. They added those on later.” Pres. Trump

“Fake news People. Everybody knows it. You’re printing fake news, as usual. Please correct your facts.” Pres. Trump on Twitter, on a routine basis.

“I have good chemistry with Kim Jong-un. We had a very nice meeting. We have an understanding.” Pres. Trump explains why it was unnecessary to have anything in writing about their “understanding” on nuclear proliferation.

"Here's the thing....blub,blub,blub....
Putin is my best bud."

“He says he did not have anything to do with influencing our 2016 elections, and he said it very strongly, and so I think it’s true.” Pres. Trump after meeting in private with Putin. (As if truth were relevant? Curiously, this statement stands beside his other assertion which was that our own Intelligence was not believable.)
"I guess an American president would know what's best for Europe, huh? Munch, munch."

“Immigration is changing the culture of Europe and they had better watch themselves.” Pres. Trump has advice for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.” Pres. Trump’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly which brought about smirks among the Germans. (I would love to have overheard their dinner conversation that evening).

“The Mueller investigation is a witch hunt.” Pres. Trump, on Twitter and to news reporters, repeatedly.

"I've studied the ocean and there are no whales.
Ignore the four whales below and behind me---
move along people. Nothing to see here."

“I did not limit the investigation of the FBI in any way.” Trump’s assertion that the FBI investigation intended to address specific allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh was not limited by him. FBI Director Christopher Wray later testified under oath that the Pres. did limit the breadth of the investigation.
.  “It’s a bad time for men. You can get accused of anything and then your life is over.” “It’s a great time for women. A great time!” President Trump’s analysis after the Kavanaugh hearings.

“We need Saudia Arabia.” (The $115 billion arms deal) “would produce 500,000 jobs.” “They are an ally.” Pres. Trump on the likely murder of the journalist living in America, Jamal Khashoggi, and the president’s desire to continue pursuit of an arms deal with Saudia Arabia. The claim of 500,000 new American jobs is unsubstantiated.

So, here it is then— our American Honesty displayed for the World to see. Maybe our Freedom of Speech gives us the right to speak nonsense? Is that it? We have all the rights of Free Speech and no responsibility associated with it? Sometimes it feels that way.

Everyone that I call “friend” was taught about Honesty in childhood. Do we not still teach our children to be truthful? In my childhood home, lying was just about the worst thing I could do. A liar could never be trusted.

Teenagers hanging out in a live oak on
Cumberland Island, Georgia.
Were you encouraged as children to win at any cost? I doubt that is what most of us were taught. Playing fairly and playing well with others were, and are still praised, are they not? Winning, by means of cheating, whether in a game or in academics, is nothing to be proud of.

And there’s this other really hard one that I believe we still promote—we still try to teach our children to understand that they are no more important or more worthy than other children in the world. We want to lead them away from an attitude of entitlement. Most of you reading this will, I think, say that no, we do not want to raise the next generation to believe they are entitled. We want a generation that does not believe in taking advantage of those less fortunate. We can be a much greater nation than that.

I would like to believe that most of us were taught to value Honesty. Although our 1st Amendment does not say, “You must be Honest in your Free Speech,” do we not want to pair up Honesty with Free Speech? Put that Apple right there next to the Orange and encourage them to get along together. We ALL own the 1st Amendment. It is ours and we need to demand our right to it in order to keep it. But Freedom of Speech is not only an American right; it is an American responsibility.


We are responsible for speaking out; and to speak out loudly to support those with the smallest and weakest of voices in America. We bear the responsibility to point out dishonesty, scheming and trickery when we see it. If we shall have any hope of restoring Honesty in our nation we shall have to demand it. We must vote for Honesty. Honesty rather than flashy rhetoric. Plain old ordinary Honesty, without glamor, without catchy phrases, and we’re going to need lots more Honesty in our national conversations. Vote for Honesty! Please! Let’s give Honesty a new life in America.

1 comment:

Deb said...

Ardys this is spot-on. You should have submitted it to a national magazine.

SV Kintala